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Dance Moms, Bachelor and The Voice: Should You Rank Performance This Way?

By John Fanguy Performance Management

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What do Dance Moms, The Bachelor, The Voice and how to rank employee performance have in common?

They’re all focused around stacked ranking when we wonder how to rank employee performance, a method that’s been used by companies like Amazon to identify top performers and eliminate low performers. Stacked ranking, also known as forced ranking, uses a predetermined formula known as the 20-70-10 rule where managers are able to place their team in 20, 70 and 10 buckets. The 20% bucket represents the top performers, the 70% represents the average performers and the 10% bucket represents the lowest performers of the team. When placed in the 10% bucket, the employee’s job may be in jeopardy.

What do Dance Moms, The Bachelor and performance management have in common? Find out: Click To Tweet
Amazon has received tremendous backlash from this practice, but they aren’t the only company to have used this method when finding how to rank employee performance. Microsoft, Adobe and Expedia have all used stacked ranking in the past, but have chosen to forego this performance management practice.

We see stacked ranking and variations of it in everyday pop culture reality shows like The Voice, Dance Moms and The Bachelor. These long-time running shows prove that Americans do crave the competition and threat of elimination, but does that mean they want to see it in their workplace?

Let’s take a look at how these three shows rank participants just like a business may rank their employees and how these ranking styles show up in everyday performance management whether you know it or not!

Dance Moms


The infamous Abbey Lee Miller, dance coach extraordinaire, runs her team using a literal stacked ranking method… a pyramid! Every week, the girls file into the studio to get their new dance assignments, but it’s the way the assignments are delivered which makes this practice so controversial. Abbey slowly reveals the faces that make up the pyramid for the week, with the lowest performer going first at the very bottom all the way to the very top of the pyramid, the highest performer. The highest performer has privileges for the week like getting their very own solo which equals extra training and support from Abbey.

We see this kind of performance ranking in everyday business, where top performers get more opportunities for employee development, and the low performers get little to no attention, except for the bad kind. Perhaps if the lower performers were awarded more time with Abbey in a solo (ie more employee development and opportunities) then they wouldn’t be low performers at all?

Are you managing performance like Abbey Lee Miller from Dance Moms? Find out: @Engagiant_iRevu Click To Tweet

What this means for your company: If you lavish all your praise and feedback on the best performers and never work with those who are struggling, you’re obviously going to whittle your team down to nothing. While poor performance should never be overlooked, it is important as a manager to learn how to have those difficult conversations. Can you find someone on your team who might thrive with a little extra attention from management (you)?

The Bachelor


The Bachelor or Bachelorette is an American favorite on the ABC network where one lucky man or woman gets to find their spouse on National TV (okay, so they’re not that lucky). Every week, one or two contestants are eliminated in the Rose Ceremony, where the Bachelor or Bachelorette hands out roses to the people he or she wants to stay. This process of elimination is similar to many other reality shows, but the difference is these decisions are based solely on first impressions and gut instincts. Sound familiar?

A study found 40% of major decisions are based on management’s gut. There’s no science or data-backed decision making going on here. This ranking mechanism is based on pure feelings, emotions and chemistry. This too happens in performance management, especially when talent managers aren’t accurately tracking, managing and recording employee performance, and they’re basing decisions off of how much they like the employee in question. Think: Nepotism! See the negative effects on the workplace here.

40% of major decisions are based on management's gut, read more: @Engagiant_iRevu Click To Tweet
What this means for your company: While it’s easier than gathering data on your team, encourage your managers to focus on less gut feeling and more performance data. Personal likes and dislikes should not dictate someone’s career and if you aren’t regularly and consistently tracking performance (like…say, weekly?) you could be setting yourself up for a compliance nightmare should you have to let a poor performer go. (It should go without saying you shouldn’t let someone you don’t “like” go).

The Voice


The Voice is the modern-day version of American Idol in which contestants are selected to be a part of teams through a blind audition. Once on the team, the coaches (like managers) can choose to eliminate their weakest links through battle rounds where two contestants are put head to head! Have you ever seen managers pit two employees against one another?

While this is not an outright practice managers display to the team, they could be doing this internally or unknowingly. If you’re thinking to yourself, that’s not me, I would never make my employees battle for their jobs, then think again! Every time you hand an employee a task or delegate a project you are selecting one employee to handle it over another based on past performance. While it’s not a battle between Jane and Greg to see who is going to lead Project X, it does show the internal conflict managers have when making these decisions. While the losing employee isn’t kicked off the team, they are neglected from accepting a challenge that could lead to further development down the road.

You could be putting two employees against one another without even knowing it. Find out: @Engagiant_iRevu Click To Tweet

What this means for your company: Like we mentioned with Dance Moms, giving the underdogs an opportunity to prove themselves is crucial to performance management. If high performing employees are constantly being rewarded with pathways to career growth and the underperformers are left in the dust, then you’re missing out on developing one solid team. Teaching an employee to handle a new skill or task is part of management’s job, as much as delegation is.

As the saying goes, you’re only as strong as your weakest link. So keep these pop culture references in mind the next time you consider your employees’ place on the team. Are you the Abbey Lee Miller of the company? Are you the nepotistic manager who plays favorites? Or are you the manager who can’t see the development possibilities in weaker links?

These issues can be fixed with performance tracking software. We like to call it real-time feedback. It’s a process that allows managers to send and receive feedback from their team in real-time. No waiting around for a formal performance review. Performance issues can be tackled head-on immediately, making managers more in-tune with their workforce so they can identify the underdogs of the team who need that extra push!

john fanguy

Posted By John Fanguy

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